Awake people don’t hurt life?

 

Awake people don’t hurt life.

Said to me a few days ago

Is it true that awake people don’t hurt life?

Not really. It’s more complex than that.

We still have hangups, wounds, trauma, and sometimes act on it like anyone else.

We still live in a social and economic system that’s deeply harmful to life and Earth, so our everyday life is harmful to life, Earth, and future generations.

At our human level, we are still a living organism that needs to eat other living organisms to survive. Even if we eat only fruits, nuts and vegetables, we still hurt life. (Just the production of these is often harmful because of modern agriculture.)

We are still a human being who makes mistakes, and who don’t know or cannot predict the consequences of our actions. We cannot really predict the local or short term consequences, and we certainly cannot predict the far-reaching and long term consequences.

There is another side to this, of course.

It’s probably true that we generally harm life less the more embodied awakening there is, especially if it’s combined with healing of emotional issues.

And in the bigger picture, it’s perhaps all Lila, the play of the divine, and nobody to get hurt and not really any hurt.

And yet, that’s no excuse to not live as well as we can, and minimize harm and support life as well as we can.

And there is yet another aspect to this. If we are very concerned about not hurting life (which is impossible although we can do or best to minimize it and make up for it), it may point to an emotional issue or a belief that’s not quite aligned with reality.

It’s natural and healthy to have it as a guide and orientation, but if it gets stressful and bordering on an obsession, it may be worth looking at a little more closely.

How to deal with ecological grief

 
Joanna Macy: Befriending our Despair

As our eco-systems keep unraveling, ecological grief will only go more into the mainstream as an experience and topic.

How do we deal with our ecological grief?

Here are some things I have found helpful for me:

Recognize it’s natural and even healthy. My ecological grief – for what I see happening locally and globally – is natural, understandable, and even healthy. It’s an expression of recognizing what’s happening. It comes from caring for myself, those close to me, humanity, future generations, non-human beings, species, ecosystems, and Earth a beautiful and amazing-beyond-comprehension living whole.

Share with likeminded people. Share as a confession.

Deep Ecology practices – like the Practices to Reconnect. These help us befriend our grief, find nourishment from our deep connection with all of life and past and future generations, and renew our hope and motivation for action. They can be done with a small group of friends or larger and more organized groups. I have led them myself with one or two other people and up to groups of ten or more.

Channeling the grief into action. This is not only how we transform society into a more Earth-centered one, but it also helps our own mental health. Even small actions are valuable, especially when I do it with others. (A while back, I helped start up neighborhood eco-teams and NWEI groups and these transformed people’s lives at many levels.)

I can support politicians and policies that help us transform into a more life-centered society. I can donate to organizations. I can make changes in my own life. I can join a local organization. I can communicate with politicians, businesses, and corporations. I can inform myself about what’s happening and win-win-win solutions. I can choose to focus on the solutions. I can envision the world I want to live with and share my vision.

I can choose to focus on systemic solutions because that’s where the problems are (not in individuals or “human nature”) and that’s also the best strategy for getting others on board (avoiding blaming individuals or particular groups of people).

Changing how I see it. I am not (only) an individual stressed out or in grief from witnessing the destruction of nature. I am nature reacting to its own destruction. And when I channel it into action, I am – quite literally – nature protecting itself. (Deep Ecology, ecopsychology, eco-spirituality, Deep Time, Big History, Universe Story, etc.)

Clear up stressful beliefs and identifications, and find healing for triggered emotional issues. When we respond to ecological destruction – whether it’s local or global – it inevitably ties into our own personal wounds and hangups. I can use my reaction to what’s going on in the world as a pointer to my own personal issues and I can explore and find healing for these. That not only improves my quality of life, it also makes me a more effective agent for change in the world. I act more from clarity and kindness and less from reactivity and wounds.

Taking in the “death of nature” and a synchronicity

 

I am at the cabin in Norway (by the lake Mosjøen in Enebakk), and a couple of nights ago, while falling asleep, I listened to an audiobook. The author talked about the loss of butterflies and other insect life at her home in Ireland, a gradual ecological devastation, the and the possibility of a very dystopian future for humanity.

I have been impacted by the same – the very obvious loss of insect life in Norway and corresponding loss of bird life and a variety of other animals and animals – and how it is just a small local expression of the global loss of biodiversity and nature.

In a very real sense, it’s a “death of nature” caused by us humans – and our current worldview of seeing ourselves as separate from nature, and a society that operates within frameworks that do not take limited ecological resources into account.

After listening to this description of loss butterflies and insects in general, I was unable to sleep.

I got up, and allowed the sadness, distress, and pain in the heart to be here and work on me. The more I am able to allow it all as it is, the more it is allowed to work on me and transform me.

As I took it in more deeply and fully, I felt something in me realigning with the reality of what’s happening, and there was also a sense of a deeper healing. I don’t know exactly what happened, and I don’t really need to know. (Perhaps we never can know fully.) Although painful, it was  a beautiful process.

The following day, there were a couple of synchronicities.

I found myself surrounded by a huge amount of insects when I was down by the lake in the evening. (I have noticed the loss of insect life at the cabin too, even if it is in relatively untouched wilderness and soon-to-be national park, and the corresponding loss of bird life is very noticeable.)

Later, I was down by the lake again to get water and saw several bats flying over the lake. (During the previous night, the absence of bats was one of the things that came to mind. I hadn’t seen any bats here for many years although they were abundant when I was a kid.)

It was as if life was telling me: Yes, it’s good you take in what’s happening – the possibility of a dystopian future for humans and many other species, and that there is already a dystopian present for many humans and other species

And also, see, there is hope. It’s worth working and fighting for a different future, one that is more life-centered. One that values life. One where humans organize themselves so what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for other people, ecosystems, and future generations.

You know it’s possible. Help others see it’s possible.

The other climate change denial

 

When we talk about climate change (or climate crisis) denial, we usually mean denial of it happening or that it’s created by humans. Although this gets a lot of attention, it’s fortunately not so widespread. When it happens, it’s typically fueled by money from the fossil fuel industry, based on misinformation, and mostly involves people who – based on what they have heard and emotional reasoning – think they know better than people who have devoted their life to understanding and studying it.

There is another climate change denial that’s as or more important. This is the denial of the seriousness of the crisis we are in. It’s a denial not only if the seriousness of the climate crisis, but of the wider ecological crisis we are in.

Here are some of the views characterizing this denial:

It won’t be very serious. For decades, this was the default approach. Some years ago, I read news stories about a 10-30cm ocean level rise while anyone who had thought about it (the amount of land-based ice that would melt) realized it could easily be in the several meter range. 

Other things are more important. Again, this is a typical default view. Short-term interest are more important. Group interests are more important. We sometimes also assume that issues that are important – education, healthcare, infrastructure etc. – are more important. They are obviously important, but to prioritize it over creating a truly sustainable global culture and society is misguided. Currently, the young climate rebels are among those who really gets this and act on it. 

We have time. No, we don’t have time. We needed to make the changes yesterday, or a decade ago, or several decades ago. We can’t put it off. 

It requires only a few peripheral adjustments. No, it requires profound and deep systemic changes in all social systems, including economics (how we think about economics and our framework for it), transportation, energy production and use, education, and more. It requires deep changes in how we see ourselves in relation to the world as a whole and how this is reflected in our intellectual frameworks and social infrastructure. 

Others will do it. Others may take the lead, but we – each one of us – are required to participate. This is about humanity as a whole. 

It’s mainly about climate change. No, it’s equally or more about shrinking natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, toxins in air, water and soil, lack of clean drinking water, and social injustice. 

It’s true that the denial of the climate crisis – or denying it’s created by human activity — is serious and needs to be addressed.

But the real climate denial is the one most of us participate in. It’s the denial of the seriousness and acuteness of the issue and that it’s about a lot more than just climate change.

Why wolves?

 

There is an ongoing debate in norway about whether we should have wolves or not, and how many. The fault lines – as so often these days – seem to go between the urban and/or more educated, and the rural and/or less educated.

Here are some of the arguments against wolves, and my comments.

They take livestock. They do, but they take far fewer than trains, traffic, and disease. And the farmers receive compensation from the state if any are taken.

They are a risk to humans. No, they are virtually no risk to humans. The real risks are what we all know about, including traffic, suicide, poor lifestyle and food choices, and much more.

They are evil and scary. Yes, we may culturally have learned to see them as evil and project our shadow onto them, and they may trigger fear in us. That’s no reason to get rid of them. (I suspect this is what’s really going on since the apparently rational arguments are not very strong.)

And here are some arguments for having wolves.

For the benefit of the wolves. They have as much right to be here as we do. They are sentient beings just as us and wish to live.

For the ecosystems. Our ecosystems evolved with large predators, and healthy and thriving ecosystems depend on large predators.

For our benefit. Just as ecosystems, we need the wild. We evolved with and in the wild, and with high level predators. We need it for our own health and well being. We need it as a reminder of who we are, in an evolutionary context. We need it to feel alive.

Why are people really against wolves? I suspect primal fear of wolves is one aspect. Specifically, fear of losing animals to wolves may trigger a more primal fear than losing them to illness or trains. Another may be instinctual competition. Humans and wolves are both large predators, and it’s natural to try to eliminate the competition.

In my view, the arguments against don’t hold up well. And the arguments for are far more important – for them, for us, for nature as a whole.

As usual, I can add that this view is very predictable for someone with my background. I grew up in a well educated urban family. I love nature. I want to consider the rights and needs of other beings, including nonhuman species. I am liberal in terms of politics. If I had grown up as a sheep farmer in an area with wolves, my views may well have been different. And that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up for wolves. They need someone to speak for them.

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Book trailer: Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth

 

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth Book Trailer from Working with Oneness on Vimeo.

SPIRITUAL ECOLOGY: THE CRY OF THE EARTH

Contributors include: Chief Oren Lyons, Thomas Berry, Thich Nhat Hanh, Chief Tamale Bwoya, John Stanley & David R. Loy from EcoBuddhism, Joanna Macy of the Work That ReconnectsSandra Ingerman, Fr. Richard Rohr, Wendell Berry, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, Sister Miriam MacGillis from, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Dr. Susan Murphy, Pir Zia Inayat-Kahn, Winona LaDuke, Bill Plotkin, Geneen Marie Haugen, Jules Cashford, and Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

John Oliver on the climate change debate

 

John Oliver points out something I am repeatedly puzzled over, especially in the US media. Instead of reporting surveys as “one in four US citizens are wrong about climate change” or “don’t get climate change”, they say “one in four don’t believe in climate change”. And perhaps in the interest of creating drama and debate where there really isn’t one, they make it appear as if there is a debate to be had on that topic. The real debate is what do we do about it, and why are some dragging their feet? In other words, the US media play right into the hands of the corporations who think they have something to gain short term by confusing the debate. Shouldn’t the role of the media be to cut through that nonsense? Of course, the mainstream media is largely owned by the same who think they have something to gain by confusing the topic, so that may be a simple explanation of what’s going on.

Since I was a schoolboy in the ’80s, I have thought this whole debate is nonsense. It doesn’t matter if climate change is happening or if it’s human made (although there isn’t much doubt about either). We still have to shift from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy sources. We still have to dramatically change our economical system and thinking to take ecological realities into account. We still have to create systemic changes so what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and society – is also what’s good for life in the short and long term. We still have to change how we do transportation, waste, food production, and more. We still have to change our worldview and how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of nature and the Earth. There is no debate there. It has to happen. It’s a matter of our own survival. (Independent of the whole climate change topic.)

 

A collective spiritual emergency, and possibly dark night

 

Spiritual emergencies happen at individual and collective levels.

A spiritual emergency is a crisis with a spiritual component. It may stretch and open us up to new ways of perceiving and being in the world. It may also be experienced as deeply challenging, requiring more of us than we thought was possible. And it eventually requires us to act from insight and love instead of from our old fear based patterns.

A dark night is a particular form of spiritual emergency. It may involve loss in many forms…. of situations, roles, hopes, dreams, and even fears. Old identifications are seen through or worn off. Wounds and traumas surface to be healed. To our conscious mind, it may seem that grace is lost and everything is moving in the wrong direction.

We are now collectively headed into a spiritual emergency, a spiritual emergency shared by humanity as a whole. We may even be headed into a collective dark night.

The Earth is going through major changes. We are about to face the consequences of our western worldview and how we have seen ourselves in relationship to Earth.

Ecosystems unravel. Large number of species go extinct. Water, soil and air is poisoned. There will be more frequent and more serious regional, and possibly global, water and food shortages.

And all of that is because we have seen ourselves as separate from the Earth, and the Earth as unlimited for extracting resources and dumping waste and toxins. We have organized ourselves collectively, in all areas of society, without taking ecological realities into account.

Facing the increasingly obvious and tangible consequences of this is, in a very real way, a collective and shared spiritual crisis. It forces us to re-evaluate our priorities. It requires us to examine and profoundly change our worldview and how we see ourselves in relation to the Earth, and to current and future generations of all species. It requires us to reorganize ourselves in very practical ways, so that what’s easy and attractive to do also supports life in a deep sense.

This spiritual crisis has already taken the form of a dark night for some, and it may do so for many more in the near future.

The Earth is merciless. It mirrors back to us our relationship to it in a very tangible way. And as with any spiritual crisis, and any dark night, this is also grace and an invitation to find a new life, to find a new way of perceiving ourselves and the world, and a new way of being in the world.

 

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We do what’s easy and attractive

 

We do what’s easy and attractive, so why not work with it?

As a society, we have organized ourselves so what’s easy and attractive to do is often harmful for the larger social and ecological whole. These designs made sense when they were created, many of them during the industrial revolution, but they don’t make sense anymore. So instead, we can organize ourselves so what’s easy and attractive to do is beneficial for ourselves, the larger social and ecological whole, and future generations. We can, for instance, tax use of natural resources instead of work, and include the real social and ecological cost in the price of products and services. It’s not only possible, it’s essential that we do it.

As an individual, I can work with the same dynamics. I do what’s easy and attractive. For instance, as long as I believe (perceive) there is something positive in beliefs, I’ll go into beliefs. So here, I can inquire into the dynamics of beliefs and find what’s actually going on. When I see and feel the discomfort inherent in beliefs and contrast this with the comfort inherent in reality – in not knowing, no foothold, being experience etc. then I’m naturally drawn to the latter.

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Justification and fullness of stories

 

It is very understandable when we try to justify our actions. We are just trying to protect a particular self image, often as “good”, and to find acceptance from ourselves and others and fit in.

There is fortunately a very simple alternative, and that is to find a fullness of stories around what we initially may wish to justify. And to deliberately include both “good” and “bad” stories in a conventional sense.

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Quick boost in well-being from outdoors activities

 

Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” such as a park can boost mental health, researchers claim.

There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being.

In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem.

– from the BBC article Green exercise quickly boosts mental health

We all (or most of us!) know this from our own experience. And yet, it is good to have it conformed by research, and also explore it in more detail. For instance, through these studies they found the most benefit from the first few minutes of outdoor activities, an additional boost if there is water nearby, and the largest effect for young people and those with mental health problems (they have more room for improvement as well).

Another article is available from Environmental News.

Wolf!

 

wolf

There is a pitifully small band of wolves in Norway, and still some folks are afraid and want them killed.

It seems so thoroughly idiotic. No human has been killed by wolves in recorded history. The few sheep that are killed are generously compensated for by the government.

And we chose and accept far greater risks all the time, for instance every time we use a car, or use toxic chemicals in our homes or in the yard, or allow bees and wasps in nature (a significant number dies each year from stings). Most obviously, we chose and accept far greater risks through how we organize ourselves as a society, in ways that are not aligned with ecological realities (ecological footprints way over what the Earth can support, economical models and policies that ignore embeddedness in ecosystems, huge gaps between rich and poor, and so on).

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Indexes of thrivability and well-being

 

There is general agreement that GNP alone is a poor measure of how well we are doing. It is limited to measuring the flow of money only, whether it is used for wars or schools, and it leaves out many other factors equally or more important to our well-being.

A good index would probably include some of the following:

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Thomas Berry (1916-2009)

 

thomas_berry

(Photo: Drew Dellinger)

Both education and religion need to ground themselves within the story of the universe as we now understand this story through empirical knowledge. Within this functional cosmology, we can overcome our alienation and begin the renewal of life on a sustainable basis. This story is a numinous revelatory story that could evoke the vision and the energy required to bring not only ourselves but the entire planet into a new order of magnificence.

Thomas Berry. Catholic priest, author, geologican, and one of the foremost figures in ecospirituality and evolutionary spirituality, died this morning.

See a tribute from Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow, his official website, and this website dedicated to this work. I highly recommend his books.

Synchronicity at play: I posted a link to Facebook on Thomas Berry, and the first of the two security check/captcha words was – honest truth – lila.

Lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute.

Arne Næss

 

arne_naess

Arne Næss died yesterday, 96 years old. He was a Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer, and most known internationally as one of the founders of deep ecology.

He is easily among the five people who have influenced me the most, and I was fortunate enough to see him speak several times, and also be in personal communication with him a few years back.

His philosophy reflected and flowed from his life.

And that philosophy was unusually and brilliantly clear. Always practical. Profoundly life centered. And as himself, innocent and child-like in its playfulness – especially in his later years.

Update: Arne Næss, Norwegian Philosopher, Dies at 96 from NY Times.

Update 2: He was beloved by the Norwegian people, and received a state sponsored funeral attended by the prime minister and members of the royal family. There is something beautiful – and profoundly right – in that happening for a life-centered eco-philosopher….

🙂

Here is an excerpt from The Call of the Mountain, a documentary about Arne Næss.

Food pragmatics

 

A post on food dogmatism by c4 reminds me that being pragmatic about food is more peaceful, and also, in the long run, probably more effective.

There are many good reasons for eating vegetarian, including ecology (less land used, less antibiotics used), health (helps many aspects of our health), and concerns for our fellow creatures. (Would I want other creatures to suffer for a short lived enjoyment for myself? No.)

And there are also many good reasons for being flexible about our food habits, such as our relationships and, sometimes, our health.

Which is why I often say I eat 95% vegetarian when someone asks me. I eat mostly vegetarian when I cook my own food (rare occasions with smaller amounts of meat), and I’ll eat whatever is put in front of me when I am with others. (I also try to eat organic, local and free range as much as possible, and when I eat with others, I go for mostly the non-meat parts of the meal if I serve myself.)

There are many reasons why it makes sense to not be too dogmatic about food. Relationships is the obvious one. Do I see food choices as more important than my relationships? No. Can I find ways to balance out the two if I am pragmatic about it? Yes.

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Caught up in details, missing the big picture

 

operaen.jpg

There is a new opera being built in Oslo, and the big discussion is whether they should have used the white marble they decided on, which is great for statues and interiors but a nightmare for exteriors, or good old Norwegian granite, which is more appropriate in terms of maintenance and because it is local.

What very few has mentioned is the obvious question: what happens when the sea levels rise? If current trends continues, and the models are even close to being accurate, the sea level will rise several meters within a few decades, and it seems clear that the building has not been designed with that in mind. The architect’s presentation above is not after a several meter sea level rise, it is before, under current conditions.

I guess they built it on the same principle as sand art: something to be enjoyed very temporarily. How post modern of them.

Alex dead

 

irene_parrots.jpg

Alex, the parrot studied by Irene Pepperberg, is dead. I don’t know why this story – among all the other news in the world – brings up sadness, but it is probably because I have an especially soft spot for the lives of animals, and how they have been and still are treated by humans. The other species we share this planet with are one of the remaining groups to be included into the circle of us.

Alex, and many other animals studied these days, show us that many other species are not only very similar to us emotionally (why wouldn’t they be, when we share ancestors, when we share biology related to emotions, and when we display similar signs of emotions in similar situations?) but also cognitively.

In science, we justify experiments on animals (as substitute for humans) scientifically because they biologically are so similar to us, and yet justify it ethically because they are different from us. In science or society at large, very few point to that discrepancy, probably because it is convenient to not look at it too closely.

And including other species into the circle of us does not mean that we all need to become vegetarians or that we release all animals from captivity. It only means moving in the direction of treating them with more respect, remembering that they too have emotions and some cognitive abilities, and that they too want to avoid suffering. They are not so different from us in that way.

The golden rule applies here too. How would I have wanted to be treated if the roles were reversed, if I was that cow out on pasture, or that rabbit in the science lab, or those elephants losing their territory to humans?

How specifically will this look in real life? How will it influence how we treat animals in a range of different settings? That is something that will look different in different circumstances, and something that will evolve and change as we do.

Edge effect

 

800px-mandel_zoom_11_satellite_double_spiral.jpg

(Thanks to Tom for suggesting fractals as another example)

In ecosystems, and most other systems, the edges are often the most rich and fertile.

We have the land ecosystem, and then the ocean ecosystem, and at the edge between the two there are representatives for both, and for the edge as well. Instead of characteristics from only one system, there are three: one, the other, and whatever emerges uniquely in the intersection of the two.

And so it is with awakening as well.

We have one system which is the awakened one. Another, which is the deluded one (taking oneself as a separate self). And at the edge of the two, there are characteristics of one, the other, and the uniqueness of the edge.

We get to explore a rich landscape, spanning all three ecosystems.

(In systems language, the awakened and deluded situations are attractor states, habitual states the system falls into… but in in this ecosystem analogy, it fits better to think of them as different landscapes or systems.)

Implications of rising sea levels

 

We know that the sea levels will rise, possibly 10 meters (30 feet) or more, and possibly within this century. (Greenland ice sheet=6.5 meters rise, west Antarctica ice sheet=8 meters, interglacial periods=20 meters rise – source: usgs), Even the early phase of this rise will have a major impact on many of the most populated cities and areas of the world.

At the same time, it seems that the implications of this is not taken seriously yet, including by investors (it will soon make much less sense to own property close to current sea levels), urban planners, insurance companies (who insures property that is more and more likely to be flooded), home owners (that great ocean front property may not be so attractive), and also politicians (having to deal with economical impacts of rising sea levels, including building dikes and rebuilding areas of cities on higher ground) and international organizations (having to deal with migrations and relocation of large number of people displaced by the rising sea levels.) And as with so many other things, it will impact those with less resources more. Wealthy countries and cities can stave off much of the impact through technology and engineering, but poorer areas do not have that option.

The top photo shows ice covering of the north pole in September 2005, which is the smallest ice cap recorded.

Manhattan if (when?) the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica melts.

Biocracy

 

As Aldo Leopold pointed out, one aspect of cultural evolution seems to be a movement towards wider circles of concern, care and compassion. As our numbers increases and technology develops, this is not only in our own self-interest, but essential for our survival.

In a seamless planet, and with the impact of our current civilization, we cannot make decisions while leaving out the effects on ecosystems and future generations.

Our current ideal of democracy, which is a form of tyranny of one generation of humans, has been a phase of our cultural evolution, and one that is now outdated. We need to move from a democracy to a biocracy. A process of decision making where the interest of nonhuman species, local and global ecosystems, and future generations are taken into account, because their interest is our interest.

In the seamless whole of Earth, the health of the whole and the parts are intimately connected, as is the health of current and future generations.

Our health and existence as individuals and society is dependent on the health of local and global ecosystems, and the health of these ecosystems are – now – dependent on the health and maturity of individuals and human society. In the same way, the health of future generations is dependent on the health and maturity of our current human generations, and life-centered choices of our current generation is dependent on taking future generations into account (bringing them into our circle of concern).